Skunk Biology

Identification | Biology | Damage ID | Management | Handling


Adult skunks begin breeding in late January, though yearling females born in the previous year mate in late March. Gestation usually is 7 to 10 weeks. Older females bear young during the first part of May, while yearling females bear young in early June. Litters commonly consist of 4 to 6 young, but may have from 2 to 16. Young or small females have smaller litters than old or large females. Young stay with the female until fall. Both sexes mature by the following spring. Skunk can live up to 10 years, but few live beyond 3 years in the wild. 

The normal home range of the skunk is ½ to 2 miles in diameter. During the breeding season, a male may travel 4 to 5 miles each night. Females that do not wish to mate with a particular male typically will spray them.  

Denning Cover

Skunks prefer to den in abandoned woodchuck holes and under decks, porches, or other secluded areas. Dens typically have good drainage and protection from rain.  


Skunks are dormant for about a month (up to 2 in northern areas) during the coldest part of winter. They may den together in winter for warmth, but generally are not sociable. They are nocturnal, slow moving, deliberate, and have great confidence in defending themselves against other animals.  


Skunks inhabit clearings, pastures, and open lands bordering forests. On prairies, skunks seek cover in the thickets and fringes of timber along streams. They establish dens in hollow logs and may climb trees to access hollow limbs.  

Food Habits

Skunks eat plants and animals in about equal amounts during fall and winter. They eat considerably more animal matter during spring and summer when insects, their preferred food, are more available. Grasshoppers, beetles, and crickets are the adult insects most often taken. Skunks dig in lawns for insect larvae and grubs. Field and house mice are regular and important items in the diet of skunks, particularly in winter. Rats, cottontail rabbits, and other small mammals are taken when other food is scarce.